STATUS: Retired, Out-of-Service
MANUFACTURER(S): Grumman - USA
OPERATORS: Argentina; Canada; Japan; Mexico; Spain; United States
LENGTH: 24.51 feet (7.47 meters)
WIDTH: 34.51 feet (10.52 meters)
HEIGHT: 11.09 feet (3.38 meters)
WEIGHT (EMPTY): 3,097 pounds (1,405 kilograms)
WEIGHT (MTOW): 4,674 pounds (2,120 kilograms)
ENGINE: 1 x Wright R-1820-78 Cyclone radial piston engine developing 700 horsepower.
SPEED (MAX): 207 miles-per-hour (333 kilometers-per-hour; 180 knots)
RANGE: 684 miles (1,100 kilometers; 594 nautical miles)
CEILING: 22,096 feet (6,735 meters; 4.18 miles)
RATE-OF-CLIMB: 1,665 feet-per-minute (507 meters-per-minute)
Detailing the development and operational history of the Grumman FF Carrierborne Biplane Fighter Aircraft.
Entry last updated on 2/14/2018.
Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com.
Grumman began its long-running relationship with the United States Navy when the service branch adopted its "Model G-5" biplane fighter as the "FF". This marked the first Grumman aircraft to be accepted into USN service and also became the first carrier-based fighter to feature retractable main legs in its design. This aircraft was born from a USN initiative to modify its existing Boeing F4B fighter stock with a retractable undercarriage to which competitor Grumman responded with an all-new, modern metal high-speed fighter submission incorporating the requested feature. First flight was on December 29th, 1931 with formal service entry occurring in 1933.
Grumman revealed the aircraft in prototype form through the XFF-1. Power was served through a single, massive Wright R-1820-E "Cyclone" radial piston engine seated at the front of the aircraft. The fuselage held a deep appearance which made it appear rather clumsy and portly by modern standards. The crew of two - pilot and observer - sat in tandem in a long cockpit arrangement. The aircraft retained the proven biplane wing arrangement of decade's past which incorporated parallel struts and applicable cabling between the upper and lower wing assemblies. The upper assembly was raised just enough over the engine cowling so as to provide the required forward visibility from the pilot's position. The lower wing assembly was fitted along the sides of the deep belly structure. The retractable main landing gear legs sat within this belly structure as well and were fitted ahead of the lower wing mainplanes. The tail unit incorporated a sole vertical tail fin, low-set horizontal planes, and an arrestor hook - the latter fitted under the tail unit. A small tail wheel supported the rear section of the aircraft when at rest or when ground running and remained fixed in flight despite the retracting nature of the main legs. Standard armament became 2 x 0.30 caliber Browning M1919 medium machine guns which - for the day - gave an appropriate offensive "punch" against adversaries of the day. The aircraft also held a light bombing capability, able to carry and release a 100lb bomb from under the fuselage.
The aircraft incorporated several rather modern elements into its design, contrary to its antiquated biplane appearance. It appeared in a period of aviation in which many designs would retain qualities of a bygone era of flight but also brought along all-new qualities such as its retractable undercarriage, fully enclosed cockpit, more modern instrument panel, and metal skinning along the fuselage (fabric was still used over the wings). In these ways, the FF was more modern than those forms emerging from the 1920s but were, themselves, rendered quickly obsolete by the new thoroughbreds of World War 2 such as the storied British Hawker Hurricane and the German Messerschmitt BF 109.
Grumman FF (Cont'd)
Carrierborne Biplane Fighter Aircraft
About a year after its first flight, the USN ordered the FF into production through 27 first-batch examples of the "FF-1" fighter-minded mark during December of 1932. Thirty-three examples of another mark - the scout-minded "SF-1" - were also added and these were based on a follow-up FF prototype by Grumman known as the "XSF-1" which included different mission equipment as well as different Wright Cyclone radials. First deliveries to a USN unit were during June of 1933 aboard USS Lexington (CV-2) (this World War 2 veteran would later be lost at the Battle of Coral Sea in 1942).
The FF series did not last long in frontline service with the USN for they were already out of circulation as soon as 1937, relegated to second-line units and roles, and officially retired from service before World War 2 (1939-1945) in 1940. Fifty-two aircraft were produced as the "Goblin" in Canada for the Canadian Air Force based on a slightly improved FF-1 form known as the "G-23". The aircraft series was also evaluated in Imperial Japan, Mexico, and Nicaragua though no firm orders followed. Thirty-four more aircraft were exported to Spain and operated as the GE.23 "Delfin". These served some in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). The XSF-2 was a trials model which incorporated the Pratt & Whitney R-1535-72 "Twin Wasp Junior" radial engine of 650 horsepower but went nowhere. Some 25 FF-1 fighters were converted for the USN by the Naval Aircraft Factory for use as trainer platforms complete with dual-control setups.
Production of all FF forms spanned from 1932 to 1934 with 116 units being completed.
In its finalized production fighter form, the FF-1's Wright R-1820-78 Cyclone radial piston engine outputted a useful 700 horsepower. This allowed for a maximum speed of 207 miles per hour to be reached with ranges out to 685 miles. The type's service ceiling was 22,100 feet with a rate-of-climb reaching 1,670 feet per minute.
Grumman would continue its relationship to the USN as its primary carrier-based fighter supplier with the introduction of the Grumman F2F biplane series in 1935. Only 55 of this type were built and these were also quickly retired by 1940. The Grumman F3F was another offshoot of 1936 - retired in 1943.
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Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.
Relative Maximum Speed Rating
This entry's maximum listed speed (207mph).
Graph average of 225 miles-per-hour.
Graph showcases the Grumman FF-1's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production Comparison
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units